Belmonte: No party stand yet on Del Castillo impeachment
The ruling Liberal Party (LP) has yet to take a stand on the impeachment complaint filed against Supreme Court Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, which the House of Representatives’ committee on justice found to be sufficient in substance on Wednesday.
“At the moment, there is no party stand and [LP members] just want to have a closer look at the situation,” Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. told reporters in an interview Thursday.
Belmonte, a party member, made the statement apparently to lay to rest speculation that President Benigno Aquino III was behind the 40-7 committee vote finding the complaint sufficient in substance. Del Castillo was accused of plagiarizing parts of his decision denying recourse to Filipino women who were forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during World War II.
The Speaker said there was still a long way to go before the impeachment complaint could be put to a plenary vote.
“The justice committee only determines form, which they did [in May]. The substance is nothing more than trying to see if the allegations are sufficient,” he said. “[T]he process is not yet over because they will simply send a copy to [Del Castillo] and ask for his reply, and then it will be reevaluated together with his side, so the process is actually far from complete.”
Time running out
Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr., the chairman of the justice committee, said it still had to hurdle two more votes—on sufficiency of grounds, which will be conducted in the first week of January, and on probable cause.
Castillo has been given 10 days from Wednesday to respond to the complaint. He would be asked to appear before the committee in between the two voting sessions.
Belmonte said, however, that time was running out on the committee as there were only 10 session days left before the end of the second regular session of this Congress.
“But I’m still very hopeful that during the recess, which of course doesn’t count as a session, all the paper work will be completed. They will probably have five or six session days in January during which I foresee that they will be able to dispose of it by acting on it in plenary one way or another,” he said.
In a statement, Senator Francis Pangilinan downplayed the timing of the justice committee’s vote on the impeachment complaint against Del Castillo.
Said Pangilinan: “The issue is whether he plagiarized or not, whether he should be made to account [for it] or not. So whether the timing is doubtful or not is not the issue.”
Simmering in his mind
Belmonte defended the President’s public outburst against the high court, particularly Chief Justice Renato Corona, in a justice summit early this week, saying that Mr. Aquino probably thought it was the best forum to comment on some of the tribunal’s decisions.
“The President is not a guy who blurts out anything that comes to his mind,” Belmonte said, adding:
“These thoughts must have been simmering in his mind for quite some time, and he saw a good opportunity to deliver his message considering that most of the people who were there were connected with the judiciary or the legal profession.” With a report from Norman Bordadora